Thursday, November 03, 2005

It's supersmooth in Dixon Rare welcome for Wal-Mart Superstore

Article Launched: 11/02/2005 06:31:00 AM

It's supersmooth in Dixon
Rare welcome for Wal-Mart

By David Henson/Staff Writer

Employees stock groceries Monday in the food section of Dixon's new Wal-Mart Supercenter. (Rick Roach/The Reporter)

Dixon's Wal-Mart won't lock its doors again until Christmas Eve.

Starting today, the store will be open all day, every day. Starting today, the store officially becomes Solano County's first Supercenter - now with more than four acres of stuff to buy.

With the seven-month, 72,000-square foot expansion all but completed, shoppers can pick up a pot roast for dinner, the Crock-Pot to cook it in and the table to serve it on - all while getting their eyes checked, a new hairdo and an oil change.

"The customers have been great going through this (expansion)," said Manager Rick Locke. "They're more excited than we are."

Compared to some of its other projects in the county, the Arkansas-based mega-retailer has enjoyed a smooth ride in

Crews near completion of the expansion of the new Wal-Mart Supercenter.

Dixon through its initial approval two years ago and its recent expansion.

In American Canyon, construction of a Supercenter continues after a judge denied a community group's request in a suit to halt Wal-Mart's plans to build in that city's Napa Junction development.

Wal-Mart also has plans to build Supercenters in Fairfield, Suisun City and Vallejo. The retail chain wants to open 40 Supercenters in California during the next three years.

Unlike proposals elsewhere, the store in Dixon has garnered much community support and only a few wary business owners.

Mayor Mary Ann Courville said the difference between the cities' responses to Wal-Mart's supersized overtures is that the massive 185,000-square foot store means locals don't have to leave town to shop.

"The difference is Vallejo has many types of shopping opportunities compared to Dixon who has a limited number for groceries and regular, everyday items," said Courville, a self-confessed Wal-Mart regular.

When the project was approved, the city gave the retailing giant the latitude to expand - a provision Courville said she hoped it would implement quickly as it would boost sales revenue and draw customers from surrounding cities.

However, Dixon doesn't have a complete love-affair with the "big-box" retailer.

"As a resident, elected official, union member, consumer and human being - Wal-Mart is not good for my family, my town, my state, my country or for me," said Dixon Councilman Mike Smith, who had not been elected when the store was approved.

Smith pointed to a new documentary called "Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price" as well as denouncements of the chain in a University of California, Berkeley study and by Rep. George Miller and state Controller Steve Westly

Moreover, two lone protesters on Tuesday handed out fliers in Wal-Mart's parking lot, claiming the mega-retailer has neglected its employees.

"I want Wal-Mart to bring up the standard of living to a normal level, so their workers can have a middle-class existence," said Terry Tucker, a Dixon resident and Albertson's grocery store employee for 13 years. "I'm not against Wal-Mart's prosperity, but they need to help their employees prosper, too."

But Courville, whose daughter worked at the store, told a different story.

"She's in her early 20s, married with two kids and needed to supplement her family's income and was thrilled when Wal-Mart opened," Courville said.

Tucker, a self-described "activist by nature," said most people don't know the facts about Wal-Mart's employment record, something he and a small group of people hope to change.

"I'm just letting people know the other side of the story and let people decide with their checkbooks," he said.

But if sales volume is the sign of acceptance, it seems shopping at Wal-Mart will be a staple for households in Dixon and nearby cities.

"If I had the money to shop at little boutiques and if there were a lot of mom-and-pop stores, I'd shop there, but I'm not stupid. I'm going to take advantage of the prices," said Dixon resident Mary Wakimoto, loading her Wal-Mart purchases in a car. "We couldn't afford to have as many cats as we have if Wal-Mart wasn't here."

David Henson can be reached at

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